Model Patching: Closing the Subgroup Performance Gap with Data Augmentation

Karan Goel · Albert Gu · Yixuan Li · Christopher Re

Keywords: [ robust machine learning ] [ data augmentation ] [ consistency training ] [ Invariant Representations ]


Classifiers in machine learning are often brittle when deployed. Particularly concerning are models with inconsistent performance on specific subgroups of a class, e.g., exhibiting disparities in skin cancer classification in the presence or absence of a spurious bandage. To mitigate these performance differences, we introduce model patching, a two-stage framework for improving robustness that encourages the model to be invariant to subgroup differences, and focus on class information shared by subgroups. Model patching first models subgroup features within a class and learns semantic transformations between them, and then trains a classifier with data augmentations that deliberately manipulate subgroup features. We instantiate model patching with CAMEL, which (1) uses a CycleGAN to learn the intra-class, inter-subgroup augmentations, and (2) balances subgroup performance using a theoretically-motivated subgroup consistency regularizer, accompanied by a new robust objective. We demonstrate CAMEL’s effectiveness on 3 benchmark datasets, with reductions in robust error of up to 33% relative to the best baseline. Lastly, CAMEL successfully patches a model that fails due to spurious features on a real-world skin cancer dataset.

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